ribery: la liga or premier league

chelsea hopes of securing Franck Ribéry from Bayern Munich as their marquee signing of the summer were given a timely boost last night when Real Madrid, the unsettled France international's other principal suitors, admitted a deal for the winger may prove to be one expensive transfer too many.

Ribéry wants to leave the Bundesliga club ahead of the new season, stating that a move to the Bernabéu to follow Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema would be his preference. Real had hoped to add the Frenchman to their glittering attacking ranks but their general director, Jorge Valdano, indicated that, having spent almost £170m already this summer, even they may be priced out of a move for the winger as well as their other remaining target, Liverpool's Xabi Alonso. If it came down to a straight choice between pursuing Ribéry or Alonso, Valdano suggested Real's focus would fix on Merseyside, although, encouragingly for Rafael Benítez, he did not sound hopeful a deal could be done for the Spain midfielder either. "Xabi Alonso is a priority if he fits into our budget, but that does not seem to be the case," said Valdano, who has been quoted around £35m by Liverpool for Alonso. "We are very far away from the figures that Liverpool have presented. As for Ribéry, the asking price is a figure that is out of place. It is the same thing as them saying that they do not want to sell him. But, after the great players who have arrived already, we aren't in a hurry."

Chelsea have earmarked Real's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who is available for transfer, as an alternative target should they receive no encouragement that Ribéry would entertain a move to west London, yet they retain hopes that the Frenchman can be prised from Bayern. Carlo Ancelotti described the winger as "a great, great player" at his inaugural press conference on Monday and still hopes to add "creative" personnel to his ranks ahead of the new campaign, with Ribéry the priority. The Italian will meet John Terry when the defender returns to training on Thursday in what is described as a routine meeting between club captain and manager, yet the issue of Manchester City's interest in securing the England captain is sure to be raised. Chelsea's stance on the player remains clear and firm, though Terry has yet to comment publicly since City had a bid of around £30m rejected last week.

He will be joined at Cobham by the remaining England players, with the club's African contingent who were involved in summer World Cup qualifiers due back on Monday. Didier Drogba will be among those, with the forward stressing his eagerness to flourish next season, and sign the new three-year contract on offer, with Chelsea. "I am confident we can challenge for major honours and I want to win the Champions League," said the Ivory Coast forward. "I know now I have had my share of criticism in the past. My behaviour [against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final second leg] is bothering me very much because it was not right. "But with the help of my team mates and the management I will focus on my game and contribute to a great season. Now I feel even more comfortable at Chelsea. I will do my [Uefa] suspension and, after that, I will come back stronger. I'm very proud that I'm in one of the best teams in Europe and I have stayed and hope to keep getting selected." Other players, including Ashley Cole, John Mikel Obi and Joe Cole, should follow suit and sign new deals over the next few weeks.

Ancelotti has appointed Bruno Demichelis, the psychologist and sports scientist who was instrumental in setting up the celebrated Milan Lab at Milanello, as an assistant coach, with Ray Wilkins, the assistant first-team coach, concentrating on football matters.The club have yet to receive any formal offer from Internazionale for either Deco or Ricardo Carvalho, despite the pair's public insistence that they wish to move to San Siro. The centre-half stressed yesterday that he is "ready to go, and the Chelsea directors know what I think", though he will report as expected to Cobham later this week. "Having had the fortune of being able to speak directly with Chelsea, we know that they are ready to negotiate over these two players, but the asking price is too high," said the Italians' transfer consultant Lele Oriali. "The deal is not as simple as it might seem. It's unrealistic for us in the current conditions. At the moment the deal is closed, and we don't know if it will open up again later on."

(source: dominic fifield,


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